Cost To Butcher Your Own Beef On The Farm

Butchering your own beef costs $2.18 per pound while a butcher will only charge $1.95 per pound. However, the cost to butcher your own beef becomes significantly cheaper after the first cow, as you'll re-use the same tools for years to come. 

Cows are expensive to purchase and raise and the cost of butchering that cow has to be factored into the total cost of ownership. Is butchering your own beef on the farm worth the savings?

Rather than suffer sticker shock at the grocery store or butcher shop, many local farmers have chosen to raise their own cows as an economical alternative. Yet, it can cost quite a bit to have a local butcher break down that cow come slaughter time.

This article will give a breakdown of the typical costs incurred by slaughtering cows at home versus having a butcher do it, and show you how to save the most money if you ultimately choose to have a butcher process your cow.

Cost To Hire A Butcher

To understand the cost associated with hiring a butcher, you should have an idea of the various fees involved (and whether they apply to you).


When cows are processed, the butcher may charge a pickup fee to transport that cow to the slaughterhouse.

This fee is usually charged per mile – between $0.50 and $1.00. If you’re lucky you may find a butcher willing to come to you to do the butchering, which will save you transportation fees.

Kill Fee

Next, there is a kill fee to dispatch the animal. The average kill fee is $70 dollars but may vary depending on where you live.

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Weight Calculations

Once the animal has been given to the butcher, they will take the live weight of the animal.

Keep in mind that the hanging carcass weight is much less than the live weight as it has had the blood, hide, head, feet, organs and entrails removed from it.

For grain-finished cattle, you can expect to take home an amount of meat that is roughly 45 percent of the live weight after processing. For grass-fed beef, you will take home even less – about 30 to 38 percent.

Depending on the type of cow you have, the yield you get from the hanging weight of the cow typically ranges from 60 percent to 62 percent.

The packaged weight (what you ultimately take home) will have the gristle, tendons and ligaments removed. Water lost during the aging process also results in less pounds of meat that you take home.

Whole CowHalf a Cow
Live weight1000lbs500lbs
Hanging Weight600-620lbs300-310lbs
Packaged Weight390lbs-465lbs195-235.5lbs
Yearling Examples

You will get to choose how many pounds of beef you want of ground beef, and the rest will be standard meat cuts of beef including briskets, sirloin steaks, and roasts unless you opt for specialty cuts.

Processing Costs

The processing fee which includes standard cutting and wrapping in freezer paper will depend on the hanging weight of the cow, and is usually between $0.45 and $1.00 for each pound of hanging weight.

If you request vacuum sealed, that may have an additional cost of $0.40 to $1.00 per pound depending on the butcher.

Whole Cow Standard Processing$270 to $600
Whole Cow Vacuum Sealed Processing$510 to $1200
Prices based on a hanging weight of 600lbs

Extra Costs

Gutting and skinning will cost around $50 and will run a bit more if you want them to save the hide. Returning the hide usually costs an additional $30 if the cow was processed off-site.

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Special processing and specific cuts such as beef sticks, sausage, or jerky will be at an extra cost because this processing takes a lot more time.

Butcher Cost Example

The below prices do not include the cost of buying or raising the cow to maturity.

Live Weight: 1000lbs

Hanging Weight: 600lbs

Packaged Weight: 390lbs

Transportation Cost: (20 miles away at 0.50 a mile) = $10

Standard Processing Cost ($1.00 per pound): = $600

Specialty Cuts (none): $0

Kill Fee = $70

Gutting and skinning = $80

Total Cost = $760

Price per Pound = $1.95 per pound

So, the total cost per pound for a whole cow processed at the butcher comes out to $1.95 per pound. That’s much less than a grocery store! Of course, it doesn’t include purchasing the cow or raising it to maturity, which can add significantly to the costs.

Let’s explore the alternative.

Cost To Butcher Your Own Cow

The cost to butcher a cow at home starts with the tools you need for the job. Of course, if you already have some of these tools, your costs will be significantly less.

Stunning or Bolt device: $500

Chain Hoist, Block & Tackle: $100

24” to 28” meat saw: $50

6” skinning knife: $40

6” boning knife: $40

8” butcher knife: $50

10 to 12-inch steel bucket: $10

Several Clean Towels: $15

Clean Water (for washing hands and tools): $5

Freezer Paper/Freezing Bags: $40

Total Tool Costs: $850

The cost of tools can be quite high, especially considering it is so expensive to purchase a cow and raise it to maturity.

Of course, it is possible to lower these costs by using a .22 caliber rifle instead of a bolt device, or re-using tools you may already have in your kitchen.

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Home Slaughter Cost Example

The below prices also do not include the cost of buying or raising the cow to maturity:

Live Weight: 1000lbs

Hanging Weight: 600lbs

Packaged Weight: 390lbs

Transportation Cost: $0

Standard Processing Cost $0

Specialty Cuts (none): $0

Kill Fee = $0

Gutting and skinning = $0

Total Cost (tools only) = $850

Price per Pound = $2.18 per pound

For the first cow processed, it is more expensive to butcher the cow yourself than to have it processed at a butcher. Yet the input costs of tools over time are significantly less because you can use the same tools for the job for many years without needing replacement.

Ultimately, if you intend to butcher multiple animals, the cost per pound is significantly less compared to a butcher.

Additional Costs to Consider

Whether you choose to butcher a cow yourself or have a butcher do it for you, add these costs to your bottom line:

Freezer Space

You need to purchase a freezer (or two) to store all that meat regardless of how it was processed. The freezer space required is about 20 cubic feet for a whole cow. It is usually more cost-effective to purchase two freezers with 10 cubic feet of space for a total cost of $2000.

Keep in mind that freezers will be required whether you have a butcher do the honors or you choose to do it yourself so this cost should be added to your bottom line either way.

Storage Space

After a heifer or steer is slaughtered, it will need to be dry-aged for at least two weeks. You need to ensure you have a place to do this that is temperature controlled or risk losing the meat.

One benefit of having a cow butchered by a butcher is they have the optimal temperature-controlled environment for aging beef and can age it longer if you want them to.

Energy Costs

Running extra freezers costs money. Having an understanding of the energy costs and how much it will run you per year for extra freezers should be calculated into the cost of supplying your own beef regardless of the method of slaughter that you choose.

Christina Pichler

A longtime resident of Southern California, Christina spent her childhood summers on a farm, raising and caring for cows owned by her grandparents, which prompted a lifelong love of cows, and other farm animals. Christina is passionate about writing, having written hundreds of articles for well-known websites, and uses her English degree in service of her love for animal welfare, most recently taking on a writing position at Cow Care Taker in 2022.

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